13 Jun The Danger of Representing Yourself at a Personal Injury Trial

The recent decision of Mather v. MacDonald, 2016 BCSC 948, is an example of the difficulties that can arise when individuals represent themselves at personal injury trials. In this case, the Plaintiff’s lack of familiarity with the process meant that his claim was continually delayed and he did not have the correct medical evidence to successfully prove his claim.

The Plaintiff, Mr. Mather, was injured in two motor vehicle accidents that occurred within 4 days of each other.  Mr. Mather claimed to have suffered soft tissue injuries to his neck, shoulders and back. He was not able to retain counsel and he did not hire any medical experts.

The trial was originally set for November, 2013, but it was adjourned several times over two years because Mr. Mather had not taken any steps to produce documents or expert reports to the ICBC lawyer.  At the Case Planning Conference prior to trial, the Court tried to assist Mr. Mather by having the ICBC lawyer provide him with a list of dates by which various steps in the matter were to be completed. The Court also provided Mr. Mather with document checklists to help him prepare for trial.

ICBC admitted fault for the accidents on behalf of the Defendants but without the assistance of counsel or medical evidence Mr. Mather was not able to substantiate his injuries.

During the trial Mr. Mather only called two witnesses, including his chiropractor and his former employer, whom he had stopped working for many years prior to the accident. The Court held that because his chiropractor was not retained as an expert, he could not provide an expert opinion and could only comment on his personal experience treating the Plaintiff.

In declining to award Mr. Mather damages for past and future wage loss, the Court stated that he had not met the burden of proof that his injuries from the accident prevented him from earning income. Because he did not have any medical experts he was not able to prove that his future medical treatments were ‘medically necessary’ and he did not receive an award for future care.

Mr. Mather only received a small award of $15,000 for pain and suffering, and $3,788 for his past chiropractic treatments.

The Court found Mr. Mather was not credible since his evidence was generally uncorroborated and unsupported by either documentary of expert evidence.  The Court stated that his lack of documents and reports to substantiate his claim was almost certainly due to the fact that he lacked the funds to pay for document production and expert reports.

A personal Injury matter is a complicated and stressful process. The burden of proof is always on the injured party to show the medical basis for their loss. This case highlights the importance of retaining knowledgeable counsel like Acheson Sweeney Foley Sahota to help you through the litigation process.